Mr. President, make this deal. House homeless vets now.
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Mr. President, you like to make deals. Well, now that you’re president, make this deal. Fix our nation’s problem with homeless veterans, tonight. 

Here’s how.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are almost 50,000 homeless veterans. The number of homeless vets has been declining, but it’s still too high. Your predecessors — George W. Bush and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSaagar Enjeti rips Buttigieg for praising Obama after misquote Steyer scores endorsement from key New Hampshire activist Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism MORE — didn’t remedy this problem in their 16 years of combined time in the White House. 

They could have. But they didn’t. Why? They lacked leadership .

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The VA currently budgets about $500 million a year to assist both homeless and at-risk vets and their families. That amount competes within the VA budget and the VA’s budget competes with other programs across the $4 trillion a year Federal budget. That competition is part of the typical way the Federal budget is put together each year. That’s part of the problem. You need to break this cycle of incompetence.

 

Homeless Vets is an easy problem to fix. How? Treat the problem like the national emergency it is. Just like a hurricane or earthquake, attack the problem—immediately .

You’re a businessman. Use your skills and business acumen. Call in all those major hotel chain CEO buddies of yours and, using a joint public-private partnership, secure an agreement from them to commit their low-cost hotel brand subsidiaries to make available up to 50,000 rooms nationwide on a nightly basis to identified homeless vets and their families in exchange for a guaranteed occupancy rate at about 30 percent discount to their commercial prices.

The hotel industry is averaging about 64 percent occupancy, so rooms are available nightly, and any imbalance across the various brands can be managed by them. Almost pure profit, why wouldn’t they participate? And we fix it, tonight.

Keep the feds out of the bureaucracy business by using existing local social welfare agencies to coordinate the effort, and have them provide other supporting social services, such as medical assistance and job training.

Keep the Vets themselves involved and monitoring the process by having local Vets organizations rate the local social services agencies and hotels.

How to pay? As National Emergency, latch onto the pending FY 2017 supplemental budget request. Have Congress immediately add $274 million to the currently pending supplemental appropriation request. This amount represents a $30/day, discounted low-cost hotel for 50,000 Vets for half a year (starting 1 April 2017). That’s about the same amount as the cost overrun on ONE of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (that can’t actually combat anything, and is costing twice its advertised price).

Have your Office of Management and Budget (OMB) add twice that amount for inclusion in the VA’s FY 2018 budget for a full-year program while a more definitive plan is worked out to fix this problem permanently. That could mean training homeless Vets for some of those jobs you’re bringing back to America.

With a 2017 projected trade deficit of $443 million and an average U.S. wage of about $45,000, that’s about 9.8 million jobs you need to bring back. Start with the auto industry, which accounts for half this deficit and 4.4 million of those jobs to be brought home. After housing homeless Vets tonight, we can retrain them for good paying jobs with built-in health care, so we permanently fix this problem.

Plus, there’s a lot of waste in the Federal budget. I know. As a Pentagon budgeteer, weeding out the excess and reapplying it to other DoD priorities was my job for 30 years. And while the last president said he’d review the entire Federal budget one line item at a time, it doesn’t appear that he did. 

If he did, he’d have found lots of that waste that could be used to fix homeless Vets (or cut taxes) while we fix this problem working with industry and government. So, it’s up to you to fix this easily solvable problem.

Time for some leadership, Mr. President. Time to make this deal.

John O. King is a retired Pentagon senior budget analyst. He also served on the defense budget review team for the Simpson-Bowles deficit Commission.


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